A genuinely fun, thirty minute photo shoot. Roundtrip.

I do some work for a really nice group of attorneys. They are located about two miles from the studio and we've more or less set the visual look for their practice a few years ago and update it regularly in portraits. We started out with some studio portraits but one day I did a shot of a partner in front of a bookcase full of (out of focus) law books. They loved it. We re-shoot all the partners and associates in front of different book shelves scattered around the practice.

At a certain point we were set. Everyone had been re-photographed and the website was humming along as the advertising gods intended. Joy. Happiness. Completion.

But nothing is ever finished. I got a call earlier this week asking me to do one more portrait in the same fashion. The firm had a new associate and they wanted to get her portrait up in a timely fashion. Today worked for both of us. We settled on two in the afternoon.

Rather than re-invent every step of the shoot I went back to one of my little leather, pocket-sized notebooks and looked up exactly how we shot the last one. I had two battery powered, self-slaving Yongnuo electronic flashes, a wein infra-red trigger, a Nikon D7000 (having fun with it!!!) cameras, the 50mm and 85mm lenses, two collapsible umbrellas, two light stands and a tripod in or on my Airport Security rolling case in about five minutes. I knew where I was going and I knew what I'd be doing when I got there.

The secret to shooting a portrait with a wall of books in the background is to make sure that your main light is both flattering and also at such an angle as to not create reflections on the background. It's just like playing pool.

The second light, also with an umbrella was position to the opposite side of the main light and aimed mostly at the books, but still feathered just a bit toward my subject. When I looked at the overall location I knew that I'd be able to back up enough to use the 85mm which gave me some nice separation and made dropping the background out, even at f3.5, a piece of cake.

I preset the levels on the lights and asked my subject to step into the scene on the spot that gave me the perfect balance between nice light, suitably vague background and a good feeling of compression. The young attorney was very professional. She walked in, hit her mark and turned toward camera with a perfect smile. Not too big and cheesy. Not to grudging. Really, just right.  I took one test frame and all the parameters were right on the money.

I walked her through some different expressions; it's always good to have some neutral and serious looks in the image folder for each associate so the marketing people can select the gravitas required for each PR opportunity.

When I started repeating poses I realized we were done and thanked her for her time. I repacked, shook hands with a couple partners and exited the building. When I pulled into the driveway at the studio a few minutes later I realized that the entire transaction had taken right at thirty minutes. Easily my new record for a location portrait assignment.  It helped that all the travel was around 2pm and traffic was (un-Austinly) light.

Just before I started writing this I tossed the memory card into the computing machine, cribbed in my metadata and ingested the selected images into Lightroom. Yes, I also made a copy into a second location simultaneously. I warmed the images up about 200 degrees and opened up the shadows about 10%, then batch processed them and uploaded them into a private gallery. I'm in a race to see if I can get everything uploaded and have the link sent over to my clients before I head out the door with a different camera bag full of stuff.  I'm providing photography this evening for an event downtown at the Four Seasons Hotel (best banquet food ever).

Nice to have expanded my schedule and been able to see the work before I moved on to the next job. I wasn't intentionally in a hurry but everything fell into place without any pushing, and when I finished packing everyone was engaged in their own work; no time spent socializing. It's fun when you've worked on stuff so often you can guess the exposures before you even turn on the lights...


Rusty said...

I love reading this type of post, beats gear porn by a country mile, you do teach us you don't need to do workshops

John F. Opie said...

Well, you just answered the question of your previous post. :-)

Anonymous said...

Just FYI law books are about as useful to a lawyer as film is to a photographer. Everything is on line and e-searchable. They do make a great background for photos. Young lawyers sometimes buy "shelf decorators" for their offices and that is nice. Jerry Kircus